Was there a Conflict of Interest in the OEAA nomination process?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:06 pm September 17, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

OEAAs...

OEAAs…

Yesterday’s post outlining the nomination process for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAAs) resulted in a number of people suggesting there was a conflict of interest since Board President Emily Engles works for a number of bands nominated in various categories. As OEAA Board President and facilitator of the nomination process, was Engles in a position to influence the final list of nominees?

To help clarify the issue, I asked Engles, via email. Here’s what she said:

Me: Which OEAA-nominated bands and performers do you work for?   

Engles: The Decatures – booking/promo; Stonebelly – booking; Mitch Gettman – booking/promo (this partnership started Sept 3); The Willards Band – booking/promo.

Me: What do you do for those bands/performers, and do they pay you?

Engles: Yes, these bands pay me a monthly fee. E3 Music Management is registered with the State of Nebraska..I have also done some “freelance” work for Hector Anchondo and Matt Cox…referrals and connecting them with the right people, mostly.

Me: How were you involved in the nomination process, specifically in categories where bands you work for were nominated?

Engles: As OEAA President and a member of the music committee within the board, I serve as facilitator. I make sure each committee (Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Music) have the list of nominees, meet deadlines, gather contact information, etc. A music review committee of board members and music voting academy members gathered to go over the full list of nominees (like I said in an online comment, we look at the entire list down to those with only one vote, not just the top six). We make sure the artists are in the correct category (many fans put a band in both rock and hard rock or both country and Americana, not knowing where they may fall) and look at the entire list for who may be moved up once those bands that should not be in a category are removed.

In regard to the categories where bands I work for were nominated, I remove myself from the discussion about who should be moved up once the incorrect bands are removed. I allow the other four members to make the final decision…I do not push or make the final call as I might in other categories.

Engles suggested I reach out John Heaston for a formal statement from the OEAAs in regard to the organization’s conflict of interest policy. “We have board members who are also in the arts and may be nominated,” Engles said. “We have voting academy members who may also be nominated…it is requested they remove themselves from actively participating in such categories, just as I did in regard to the bands I work for.

“The bands I work for are nominated because they are talented and work hard to make an impact on the Omaha music scene,” she wrote. “I work hard for them and they work hard for me.”

To clarify further, Engles pointed me to the nomination statement from the OEAA website, which you can read here.

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A final thought…

When you turn art into a competition, you are saying one work of art is better than another work of art. Conversely, you’re saying something isn’t as good as something else. All art is subjective. I might think Bob Dylan’s voice is mercurial; you might think it sucks. The truth is in the eye — or ear — of the beholder.

I can make you a top-20 list of my favorite Nebraska bands. You can agree or disagree with as much of it as you want, understanding at the end of the day it’s just one man’s opinion.

And when you create a non-profit organization that’s designed to recognize the brightest local talent through an awards program, there’s going to be people who disagree with your choices.

However, when the area’s best-selling local albums by the three local performers who draw the largest local crowds are not nominated for the Album of the Year, Singer/Songwriter of the Year or Artist of the Year, people are going to ask questions.

I asked the questions yesterday. The answer was very clear. All three artists were considered during the nomination process, and Conor Oberst, The Faint and Orenda Fink simply didn’t make the cut. The nominating committee felt they’re not as good as those nominated for Best Singer/Songwriter; their records were not as good as those nominated for Album of the Year, and as artists and musicians, they simply didn’t do as much musically as the people who were nominated for Artist of the Year. The OEAA nominating committee has spoken.

Do you agree with them?

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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20 Comments »

  • year after year i hear you write about this function, and year after year i just think the OEAA is a joke.but that’s just a cynical outsiders perspective.

    Comment by dane — September 17, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

  • Living in Lincoln, I’m only sort of aware of of the OEAAs, but I usually look at the nomination list and winners. What Engles says here about the Confict of Interest seems pretty similar to most organizations I have worked or volunteered with.

    Regarding the lack of Conor, The Faint, and Orenda, if the popular vote didn’t yield many votes, I think the committee was right not to add them. If fans overall didn’t feel their local impact was more than those with more votes, the committe would have been wrong to add them. (BTW, I love all three and will drive to Omaha to see them, whereas I haven’t heard of many of the bands nominated).

    Comment by Cindy — September 17, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

  • “The nominating committee felt they’re not as good as those nominated for Best Singer/Songwriter; their records were not as good as those nominated for Album of the Year, and as artists and musicians, they simply didn’t do as much musically as the people who were nominated for Artist of the Year.”

    Tim’s words…not ours.

    I see the point you’re making, but please do not put words in our mouths by saying, “The OEAA nominating committee has spoken.”

    Comment by Emily — September 17, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

  • When you left them out of the nominees list, that’s exactly what you and the nominating board said, Emily.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 17, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

  • people will always be upset by who the Oeaa nominated. people will always find something to throw a fit over. there is several artist that should be on this list, the fact is that they are not, oh well. it is what it is, should of, could of, would of, does not change a thing. awards are not everything. ask the artist that got nominted, most could care less that they got on the list, most just want to play music. its not war out here. there is no competition between us. if you don’t know then ask us. opinions are like assholes, we all have one and they are all full of sh*t

    Comment by steven file — September 17, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

  • More like the public, the nominating committees and the artists have spoken. That sums it up WAY better.

    Comment by John — September 17, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

  • Not when it came to the nominees’ list, John.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 17, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

  • I’m just glad for once, Jim Homan, as well as other engineers/producers are getting some formal recognition.

    Comment by Gary — September 17, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

  • Allow me to interject here, if I may. Having been a part of the musical fabric in Omaha for many years, and having long-standing friendships with many of the aforementioned musicians/bands, I think this conversation may require a different perspective when it comes to the nomination process. I, and many others (who may or may not include some of the more influential musical entities in O town) tend to look at the OEA’s as a ‘local’ awards show, highlighting bands that are just that; local. I mean this with all due respect when I say that the bands and individuals mentioned above are no longer making a huge local impact. That is largely true. They are busier making a national and in many cases international impact. They don’t really belong to us anymore as they once did. I feel as though the OEA committee is fulfilling their purpose with total accuracy, because it’s my opinion that it’s purpose is better served in recognizing bands that tend to exist mostly within the confines of our venerable city/region. There is nothing at all wrong with this; in fact, I think it serves to celebrate the up-and-coming element in our city, and perhaps could be looked at as a springboard for bigger and better things for some. Bands like the Faint, Conor, Cursive, et al, are not losing a wink of sleep over this, and frankly, neither should we. Rest easy, everyone. Cheers.

    Comment by Craig — September 17, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

  • Yes when it comes to the nominee’s list Tim. The public nominates, the review committee reviews and makes generally small tweaks and big corrections (wrong categories) and some oft-recognized and awarded artists have requested the nomination go to others. There’s your 3 voices, my friend! And well put Craig!

    Comment by John — September 17, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

  • John, we both know it all comes down to the nominating committee. Craig, well said, but no one ever said the bands I mentioned give a shit (though their parents might).

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 17, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

  • No, we both don’t know that. Being the only one between the two of us that has sat through a few review committee meetings to finalize the nominations, at least recently, the public nominations tend to rule. After cleaning up for categories, the committee needs a very, very good reason to add a nominee that isn’t publicly nominated or to move one up to a final nomination, and that’s usually 1 or 2 nominees, tops. That’s always been the direction and as far as I’ve ever heard or seen, from someone who’s been very involved in the internal processes, that’s been followed.

    Comment by John — September 17, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

  • Yeah, yeah it does John, as you outlined above and as Emily outlined in her comments in Lazy-I.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 17, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

  • I am just finding out that the committee plays a role in deciding who’s nominated. Disturbing, to say the least. This explains why the list is always so funny looking. It rarely reflects the prior twelve months of Omaha music. It never lands with me or any of my musician buddies. We go to shows every weekend at all venues and yet every year we’re left looking at these lists going “Who..?”

    Comment by Collin — September 19, 2014 @ 12:45 am

  • Gosh guys, not sure how i can make it any clearer. 1) Public nominates, accounting firm tabulates, that sets about 90% of the nominations. 2) Review committee clears up bad votes in wrong categories, the accounting firm wouldn’t know this info, and maybe makes 1-2 nominations in some categories based on critical considerations, including local impact, history, etc., that sets the other 9%. 3) Artists who have indicated nominations should go to others, less than 1%. No process is perfect, but it couldn’t be too bad considering 4,000 or so public ballots are submitted and the review committees really sweat the final details to get 150+ nominees.

    Comment by John — September 19, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  • John, would you please, please, please take the time to read the blog posts that are being discussed here before you continue chime in? The point you are making is EXACTLY the point that I was making: Emily and her committee acknowledged that they have the ability to add a nominee when all agree that there was an oversight. They rarely do it, but do it when they feel it’s necessary. The did not do it for The Faint, Conor Oberst or Orenda Fink because they felt that their lack of inclusion WAS NOT an oversight. That is the point of this entire discussion. They had the ability to right what I believe is an obvious oversight and decided not to.

    Now, if you’re feeling randy, why not “open the kimono” and show us what the public votes were? I’d like to know how many of the music nominees got more than 100 public votes. Or for that matter, how many ballots contained only one filled-out vote.

    Other than supplying a “starting list” of nominees for the committee to consider, I don’t see any benefit of using a public vote. If some crappy band rallies their pals to go online and vote for them and they get 100 votes — and their band absolutely sucks — does it make sense to include that band as a nominee for “best songwriter” or “best EDM act” or “album of the year”? The nominations shouldn’t be based on which act was able to engage their friends to go online and vote, it should be based on the quality of the music.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 19, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  • First of all, I think it’s safe to assume most voters are familiar with (and probably fans of) Saddle Creek’s roster. And I’m willing to bet when they voted, they were focusing on “truly” local artists because they understood that these awards are more valuable to truly local artists than national touring acts. A local artist can use an nomination/award to help bolster press kits, booking, etc., at point when they’re starting out; a national touring act might not even be aware they won an award. I’ve never voted, but I would vote for true locals over big names, assuming I had the patience for the tedious voting registration system/crappy site design. You seem to be the only one losing sleep over Saddle Creek getting snubbed.

    Second (in regards to your last comment), basing nominations on “quality” is going to have a MUCH higher risk of a conflict of interest than using a poll system. In a place like Omaha, it’s nearly impossible to have a well-informed, enthusiastic nominating board that isn’t also personally connected to the artists being nominated. There’s also virtually no way they’re going to be familiar with every single band and artist in town, though you’re probably the top contender for that spot (maybe you were distantly implying that you should just single-handedly run the OEAAs?).

    If the system was based on “quality,” you’d be writing a column complaining about that conflict of interest instead (and have a more convincing argument). Either way, you’ve probably seen a nice bump in traffic this week, so kudos to you for rekindling the yearly flame war and finding a way to get something out of it.

    Comment by Tex Arcana — September 19, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

  • Thks Tex! Tim–I read it all, and while there is a chance for dogs to make it on the final list, which is also something the review committee can address, the beauty of 4k+ public nomination ballots, representing probably 40k artist nominations at an average of 10 categories per nomination ballot, we don’t see hardly any music nominees able to pull this off. Regardless, it’s caught in the final award. And no peeking under the kimono, that opens another can of worms, which is why we use an independent accounting firm to do the tallies. Like we’ve always said, not perfect, but as close as we can get.

    Comment by John Heaston — September 24, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

  • This is about the nomination process, not the final award. Needless to say, an artist can’t get to “the final award” if the artist was never on the nomination list. Regardless of independent accounting firms (Do you really use those during the nomination process?), you should be able to supply those tallies for all of us to see.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — September 24, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

  • Re-reading this post, I can’t help but feel confused. I admit, I am not a professional in the music industry and really do not know many of the artists that were nominated. I do know Jocelyn, my granddaughter. I can tell you that she did not rally her friends to vote for her in the Best Singer/Songwriter category. Firstly, because she did not even know what the OEA Awards even were. We had to look it up online to see what it even was. We do not know who nominated her or even voted for her. She was not at the reveal party, she found out the next day. I think she is very touched and blown away with this nomination. I think she was rightly nominated because her talent for writing and performing is way beyond her 2 years of music experience. It is too bad that anyone has to be left off a list if they are truly deserving. But I do not think this nomination was a waste.

    Comment by Viki — October 1, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

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